Disclaimer:

I do not own Rockman.EXE or Axess in any way shape or form.

Notes:

Rated for use of violence, blood, and some cursing.

Spoilers for Rockman.EXE Axess and Rockman.EXE.

Takes place sometime after the end of Axess and makes assumptions about the end of the series. Some Axess characters may be out of character due to lack of knowledge on how they are portrayed in Axess episodes. No shonen-ai intended, only friendship and circumstances.

Summary:

What begins as a field trip changes into a chaotic disaster as the roles of student and Net Savior collide.

Translations:

-sensei = teacher

-kun = indicates friendship

-sama = high respect, lady, lord

-chan = feminine term of familiarity (used for younger females or as an endearment)

-san = Mr., Ms., Mrs.

ne = hey, isn't that right

che = just a sound like 'jeez'

nani = what

demo = but

Ohayo gozaimasu, minna-san = good morning, everyone

Iie = no

Mou = using it as a general 'oh man' sigh of exasperation or worry

Hai, aa, hn, un = yes

Shimatta = shit, crap, (damn? Not entirely sure which) [curse]

Kisama = rude form of 'you'

Teme = you bastard

Daijoubu = I'm okay, it's okay

Oi = a sound used like 'hey'

Honto = really

Kuso = shit

Kami = a god

Kami-sama = God

Yogatta = thank god, thank heaven

Itai = ouch

Baka = idiot, fool, moron

Arigatou = thanks

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The Great Teacher Caper

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As the morning bells rang out over the courtyard of Akihara Elementary and Middle School the last few straggling children rushed for the doors into the building. In a moment the courtyard was empty of movement save for a small flock of pigeons settling down to pick at yesterday's dropped lunch crumbs.

The sudden silence indicating school was in session was abruptly shattered by a panicked young voice wailing over the rhythmic skaaa skaaa of roller blades whisking over the pavement. "Mariko-sensei is going to kill me! Why didn't you wake me up Rockman! We're going to miss the field trip!" The pigeons scattered in all directions, taking flight as a young boy, looking about twelve years old, shot through the space they had just been, heading at breakneck speeds for the main doors.

Hikari Netto, holder of second place in the N-1 Grand Prix, undercover Net Savior of Japan, and bane of net mafias everywhere had arrived at school, late again.

"I did wake you, Netto-kun. Six times." An exasperated young voice rose from the belt holster holding the blue PET at Netto's hip.

"Then you should have woken me up seven times, Rockman! It is a lucky number after all. Besides, it's not waking me up unless I get up!" Netto cried back as he skidded to a stop in front of the steps and hopped on one foot while unsnapping the roller blades from the bottom of his shoes.

"Maybe if you'd listen to me sometimes, you wouldn't be late everyday! Now hurry up, you're late enough already, Netto-kun, you don't need detention." Rockman scolded from his position inside his PET as Netto sprinted up the steps and rushed through the doors into the hallway.

"I'm not late everyday. Besides, maybe if we time it right, Mariko-sensei won't notice I'm missing from roll call before I get to my seat." Netto replied as he tiptoed hurriedly past the classroom doors towards his own.

"Netto-kun! Trying to sneak in makes it worse!" Rockman scolded his net-op as he glared up at the boy. "Besides, it'll never work anyway." He added as he folded his arms across his chest and nodded sagely.

"Sure it will, all I gotta do is make sure Mariko-sensei doesn't see me while I slip in the door and crawl to my desk. Heh, that ought to be easy for a Net Savior like me!" Netto added as he grinned and rubbed the base of his nose as his ego swelled.

"Netto-kuun..." Rockman sighed, giving up for the time being. There was no way he could talk Netto out of his 'fool-proof plan' when he got into one of those moods. He'd just have to sit back and hope Netto-kun survived Mariko-sensei's wrath.

A moment later, Netto crouched outside his classroom door. "Ne, Rockman, what do you see, is she looking this way?" Netto held up his blue PET to the small window set into the door.

"Netto-kun! I am not helping you sneak into the classroom! Maybe detention will convince you to get up on time for once!" Rockman hissed back in frustration.

"Che, you're no help." Netto scowled down at Rockman as he moved to put his PET back in its hip-case.

Ever so carefully, Netto inched the doorway open enough to slip in through the gap. Then swiftly looking both ways for an angry Mariko-sensei, and seeing none in his line of sight, Netto swiftly began to crawl and slither his way across the classroom. Ducking under desks and crawling between chairs' and students' legs and feet, Netto made his way to his own desk at the back, near the windows. Just as he reached his own chair and prepared to slide stealthily into his seat, a familiar feminine voice from behind him froze him in his tracks.

"Netto, what in the world are you doing?"

"Gkk!" Netto froze in place and jerked in surprise before turning to face his accuser. "Meiru! Shhhh! I don't want Mariko-sensei to notice I'm coming in late." He hissed at the red-haired girl sitting to his right as he slipped into his seat and turned to face the front.

"Demo, Netto, Mariko-sensei isn't even here yet." Dekao replied from just behind Meiru.

"Nani!" Netto spun around to face the front of the classroom and quickly looked around for his brown haired teacher. She was nowhere to be found. "Gyah! You mean I was worried for nothing!" Netto cried as he threw up his hands and slumped in his seat.

"You really should try to get here on time Netto. Mariko-sensei is almost never late; this has got to be a first. You're lucky she's late today, she might have made you stay and clean the classroom instead of going on the field trip." Yaito spoke up from her seat just in front of Netto as she turned around to face him. "Besides, this is your week to take care of the class hamster. You're supposed to arrive early to make sure Nibbles-san(1) has a clean cage and food and water. Now you'll have to stay in during lunch to take care of him before you can go eat."

"Whaat! I gotta clean out the cage before I can eat lunch! Oh man!" Netto groaned and slumped in his chair.

"You need to be sure Nibbles-san has food and clean water too, Netto-kun." Rockman spoke up from where Netto had plugged him into the desktop PET cradle. "Its very important for a hamster's health that they have proper food and water and a clean cage."

"All right all right! I get the picture. I'll be sure to take care of Nibbles-san before lunch." Netto groaned and sank deeper into his seat. Just then the door to the hallway opened fully and a pretty young woman, wearing a blue-green dress with brown hair done up in two distinctive pastry-shaped curls at either side of her neck, entered the classroom. Netto straightened up as she walked to the front of the class and turned, smiling at everyone.

"Ohayo gozaimasu, minna-san." Mariko-sensei smiled at everyone. "Sorry I'm late. As soon as we get roll call out of the way, we can prepare to leave for our field trip to IPC's factory." As Mariko-sensei pulled out the roll sheet and began calling off names, Netto groaned and slumped again, throwing his head back over the back of his chair and tossing his arm over his eyes.

"What's wrong Netto-kun?" Rockman whispered in concern.

"The field trip. I forgot all about it, I can't just leave without taking care of Nibbles-san. There's no time to do it before the trip if we're leaving this early."

"Hmm, you're right Netto-kun. Maybe if you ask Mariko-sensei you can get it done while she's taking roll."

"Iie. That won't work... Aha! I know!" Netto cried, grinning as he straightened up.

"Eh? What do you mean Netto-kun?" Rockman asked in confusion.

"Don't worry, Rock, just leave it to me." Netto grinned brightly down at his net navi.

"Mou, that'll only make me worry more." Rockman sighed to himself as Netto called out to Mariko-sensei that he was present in class.

A few minutes later the class was in an orderly state of chaos as all the students packed up their things and prepared to leave for the rest of the day for the field trip. Meiru came up to Netto who was fiddling with the latch on Nibbles-san's cage. "Today's field trip is going to be fun, ne, Netto? I'm glad class B will be coming with us too. We'll get to spend all day with Tohru on the bus and during the tour too."

"Aa, we almost never usually see Tohru during school hours." Netto grinned as he turned around and folded his hands behind his head.

"Also, Enzan is going to be there too." Yaito spoke up from behind Meiru.

"Eeeh?! He is! Why!?" Netto exclaimed in shock.

"Baka, it is a tour of an IPC factory you know. Enzan said his father asked him to lead the tour for our school today." Yaito replied matter-of-fact-ly.

"Hey, Meiru-chan, hurry up, everyone's leaving already. You can sit by me on the bus, ne?" Dekao grinned down at Meiru as he hurried over to make sure they weren't left behind.

"De gutsu!" Gutsman added for emphasis from Dekao's PET hanging around his neck.

"No thanks Dekao, Meiru already agreed to sit with me." Yaito replied as she snagged Meiru's arm and lead her off between the two boys.

"I did? Ouch! Oh yeah, I mean, of course I did." Meiru replied hurriedly after Yaito surreptitiously pinched her arm with a meaningful look thrown in as they headed for the door.

Netto glanced over at Dekao who glanced back. "Probably a girl thing." Netto spoke up after a second. Both shrugged then followed after the girls while Rockman sighed and shook his head at Netto's cluelessness.

A few minutes later, Class A and Class B had gathered outside the school and began loading into the large bus. Soon Netto was sitting with Tohru behind Meiru and Yaito. Dekao was sitting across from the two boys in the other back seat of the bus. Within ten minutes, Mariko-sensei had settled everyone down and the bus was headed out of school grounds for the IPC factory. No one was in front of the school twenty minutes later when the black IPC limo pulled up and Ijuuin Enzan climbed out of the back seat and headed up the walkway towards the front doors.

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Enzan sighed as he stopped in front of the main doors to Akihara Elementary and Middle School. How had his father ever managed to talk him into this. The last thing he needed was to be spending his entire day leading Hikari Netto and friends around one of IPC's game production factories. In all likelihood, Netto would probably decide this was some sort of show of friendship on Enzan's part, which would probably end up with Netto trying to be friendly and doing something that makes that vein on Enzan's forehead pop out and scare passersby. Enzan sighed again.

"Enzan-sama." Blues' calm voice rose from the PET tucked into Enzan's belt-case.

"Hai, I know." Enzan muttered grumpily back. Not that he would ever admit it to anyone other than Blues, of course; Enzan knew exactly why he had agreed to lead this particular school tour. Despite the urges to bash his head into the nearest wall being around him brought on in Enzan, he did consider Netto to be his friend; in a sort of aggravatingly, cheerfully, annoying, rivalry sort of way. Blues agreed; seeing Netto, Yaito, Meiru, Tohru, and Dekao outside of Net Savior duties would be a good way to relieve the stress that had been building up on Enzan during the Darklords, Nebula, and Dark Chips situation.

The fact that Netto never changed, despite all the madness and chaos that might be occurring around him, was a comforting point of stability for Enzan. Whatever was wrong, as long as Netto remained unchanged by it, it would all be okay. Enzan steeled himself for yet another round of that annoyingly cheerful stability and couldn't help the small smile that tugged at his lips as he pushed open the doors of Akihara Elementary and Middle School.

"Which classroom are we meeting them in again?" Enzan asked as he glanced down either hallway.

"Room 214 - Class A down the left hall." Blues replied.

Enzan turned down the hallway and a few minutes later arrived outside classroom 214. He paused outside the door and took a deep breath. "Dealing with Netto all day, what was I thinking." He moaned.

"Enzan-sama." Blues replied with a sigh.

Enzan reached for the door but then paused a look of confusion passing over his features. "For a class with Netto in it, it sure is quiet in there, ne, Blues?"

"Hn."

Enzan nodded shortly and then pulled open the door to reveal...an empty classroom. Enzan blinked and looked around. "Are you sure this is the right room number?"

"Aa Enzan-sama. There is no mistake."

"Hmm, you're right." Enzan replied as he walked into the room and looked around then walked over to a shelf under the window. "This is Netto's stuff. Why would he leave it here?" Enzan reached into one of the shelves beneath the plastic hamster cage that sat on the windowsill and pulled out several large, new-looking math and science textbooks. Sitting on top of the stack was the mobile plug-in port Netto had built a few months ago and insisted on showing off. The Hikari family crest was clearly visible on its side. "The textbooks I understand, but the plug-in port?"

"More importantly, where is everyone Enzan-sama?"

"Aa, Mariko-sensei knew we were meeting here. Why wouldn't she wait until we arrived?" Enzan frowned as he looked around the empty room. "Where is Class B located, Blues?" Enzan spoke up as he started for the door.

"Room 234, Enzan-sama."

"We'll check there first."

"Aa."

It was only a matter of moments before they arrived to find Class B also empty. "Blues, where is the Principle's office located."

"Room 100, Enzan-sama."

"Right."

As Enzan headed down the hallway backtracking toward the principle's office, they passed the ladies room and a few meters farther, a janitor's closet. Both would be completely unremarkable, save for the very unusual thump and clatter of falling objects from behind the janitor's closet door. Enzan paused outside the door for just a second before grabbing the handle and turning. The door was locked. From the outside. There was another, louder thump from within in response to his jiggling of the doorknob. Enzan frowned.

"Who's in there?" Enzan called as he rattled the handle again. His only answer was another clatter and increasingly frantic thumps that made the door shudder slightly in its frame. "Hold on." Enzan called through the door. "Ready Blues?"

"Aa."

"Plug-in! Blues, Transmission!" It was a matter of seconds before the red light on the key panel clicked over to green and the latch released the door. Enzan jacked out Blues and pulled the door wide open. Slumped on her knees on the floor, Mariko-sensei looked up at Enzan with groggy, unfocused eyes. Ropes bound her wrists behind her back and her legs together beneath her. "Shimatta." Enzan hissed as he dropped to his knees beside her and reached for his pocketknife to slice through the knots around her wrists.

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Twenty minutes after leaving the school, the bus pulled to a stop in front of a large warehouse and factory complex at the Densan city docks. As Mariko-sensei began herding the students off the bus, Yaito frowned out at the building.

"You'd think IPC would take better care of their facilities. I know my daddy would never let one of his factories look so disreputable." Yaito frowned out the window at the slightly run-down appearance of the buildings facing the waterfront.

"Ne, Netto, what do you want to bet they make something dumb like boxes here." Dekao added as he followed Netto and Tohru up the aisle.

"Nah, I don't think its boxes. If Enzan is leading the tour it's probably something top secret and cool! I bet that's why its here in these ugly buildings. Its to protect it from industry spies or something!" Netto grinned as he hopped down the steps to the pavement.

"Netto-kun, don't you think it's strange. This doesn't look like an IPC facility. There are no employee cars or employees anywhere around. Something's not right here." Rockman spoke up, looking around with concern through the window of his PET.

"Don't be so worried Rockman. There's nothing wrong here. All the interesting stuff must be inside the building, that's why we can't see it yet." Netto grinned and followed Meiru, Yaito, Tohru and Dekao across the pavement to follow the rest of the students into the building doorway.

"Watch your step minna-san." Mariko-sensei smiled down at them as they headed into the dark interior of the building after the other students and filed down the dimly lit hallway towards the more brightly lit area visible at the end of the hall as a square of light. Once everyone was inside, she brought up the rear of the line, just a few feet behind Netto.

"Ne, Mariko-sensei, its pretty dark in here." Meiru spoke up as the door to outside shut behind her, blocking out half of the light.

"Daijoubu, Meiru-chan. It'll start just as soon as everyone reaches the room up ahead." Mariko-sensei reassured her as she patted her shoulder lightly.

"Un." Meiru nodded before reaching over to snag Netto's hand and pull him alongside her towards the light up ahead. "Don't fall so far behind, Netto, you might get lost."

"Eh? It's just a hallway Meiru, not a maze." Netto blinked in confusion as Meiru dragged him down the hallway. As they emerged into the light of the room, Netto blinked and looked around. There were rows of chairs set up facing a conference style podium and projector screen on the far side of the room. The Class B teacher, Iwamoto-sensei was directing the students into seats. As Netto and Meiru took seats next to Yaito, Tohru and Dekao, Mariko-sensei headed up to the podium.

"Attention everyone. I'm going to go find our guide. Everyone is to wait here, quietly, until we get back. Understood?" A chorus of yeses answered Mariko-sensei. As she left the room through the door they had entered, it clicked shut behind her.

Netto sighed, bored already. "Enzan better hurry up. It's not nice to keep guests waiting you know."

"Netto-kun, I still feel something is wrong. There's no sign there's anyone else here at all. I'm worried." Rockman added as he met his net-op's brown eyes with concerned green. "This isn't right, Netto-kun."

Netto yawned widely as he replied. "Stop being so paranoid Rockman. It's just a field trip." He yawned again and blinked sleepily. "Nothing's wrong. Ne, Meiru, how long do you think before the tour starts?" Netto turned to face Meiru. "Ne, Meiru?" Netto reached over and nudged her shoulder only to jump in surprise as she slumped over in her seat a light snore emerging from her mouth.

"Meiru-chan!" Roll gasped in surprise.

Netto blinked and then yawned again. "W-what's going on?" He asked in confusion as he looked around the room. All over, students were yawning or slumped over in their seats, snoring, some more quietly than others, Netto noted as Dekao's snores started to echo through the room.

"Wake up Dekao, de gutsu!" Gutsman shouted up at his net-op as Dekao slumped forward.

"Netto-kun! Netto-kun! You've got to get out of here and get help! There must be something in the air that's affecting everyone. You've got to get out before it affects you too!" Rockman cried in a panic as Tohru slumped over out of his chair and fell to the floor.

"Tohru-kun! Tohru-kun wake up! What's going on?!" Iceman cried out in a panicked but muffled voice from underneath Tohru's chest.

"Yaito-sama! What's going on, Rockman? I can't see anything from my PET." Glyde cried in a panic as Yaito began snoring softly.

"Right. I go-got-gottaaa..." A yawn interrupted Netto as he stumbled to his feet and staggered towards the doorway. He hadn't gone four paces before he collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

"Netto-kun! Netto-kun wake up!"

"He can't hear you, you know." A muffled female voice mockingly laughed from out of Rockman's line of sight. "Its effects may not last very long, but the gas is very fast acting and dissipates quickly. Which makes it perfect for something like this."

"Who are you? What have you done to Meiru-chan and the others!" Roll cried from her PET at Meiru's hip.

"Who I am is no business of yours. I have no business with you. Netto-kun on the other hand..." A woman wearing a familiar blue-green dress with a gas mask on over her features appeared in Rockman's line of sight as she leaned over Netto. "Ne, Rockman, what good is a Net Savior without his PET? Or more importantly, what good is a navi without his Net Savior? Hmmm?" She asked as she reached up and pulled off the mask, and with a swirl of cloth, replaced the dress with a black trench coat as her croissant rolled curls rearranged into a single thick spiral down her shoulder as she tossed her head and adjusted her dark sunglasses.(2)

"You!" Rockman cried in shock and fear as the meaning of her words reached him.

"What's going on? Gutsman can't see anything! De gutsu!"

"Yes, me! Yuriko!" She laughed as she picked up his PET. "Demo, you don't have to worry Rockman, you won't be seeing me again. You won't be able to see much of anything without a PET, ne." She grinned maliciously before spinning with a swirl of black cloth and hurled the PET at the far wall.

"Rockman!" Roll shrieked in horror as the blue PET slammed into the wall and split open, spilling its circuit boards onto the ground.

Yuriko laughed as the door behind her opened again and eight men filed into the room and began tying up the students with rope. "Put the rest into the holding room. But leave this one out for me at the ramp. The rest are yours to do with as you please." Yuriko laughed as she kicked Netto in the side with her foot before turning and leaving the room, an exultant laugh followed her out and down the hall.

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Meiru groaned softly as she came back to awareness. 'What happened? I was on the field trip and Netto was sitting next to me complaining about Enzan being late. Then... then... I don't remember.' With a moan Meiru fought to open her eyes despite the grogginess of sleep tugging her back to slumber. As she forced her eyes open and blinked past the sleepiness she became aware of certain other problems besides having fallen asleep during a field trip.

First off, she was tied up, hand and foot, gagged, and lying on her side on a cold concrete floor. Secondly, she could just see the back of Yaito's head lying next to her, unconscious. To her other side was Tohru and beyond him she could make out Dekao's larger form. Thirdly, she didn't see Netto anywhere even though she could see several other students and Iwamoto-sensei lying on the ground, tied up around her. And fourth, although no one had taken her PET, she could just barely make out the sound of poorly suppressed sobs coming from the belt-case at her hip. The sound must have been turned way down on her PET for it to be so quiet, because the grief contained in those sobs was in no way restrained.

As she shifted around to try to sit up, a tiny, broken voice spoke up from her hip. "Meiru-chan? Oh Meiru-chan!" Roll sobbed.

"Mmmphf mmmf." Meiru struggled to work the gag around so she could at least be legible to her navi.

"Meiru-chan, you've been asleep for fifteen minutes. I didn't know how long you'd be unconscious. Oh Meiru-chan, it's terrible!" Roll sobbed. "M-Mariko-sensei was an imposter! It was Yuriko! And she...she... Oh Meiru-chan! She broke Rockman's PET and took Netto!" Roll sobbed as she collapsed to her knees, burying her face in her hands.

"Mmmfph!" Meiru gasped in shock and fear.

"We-we're supposed to be ransomed, demo... demo... Yuriko wanted Netto because of his 'job' and she took him away. I don't know what she's going to do!" Roll whimpered softly.

Meiru struggled to make some sort of comforting noise for Roll, but inwardly she was wavering between seething rage at Yuriko, shocked fear and sorrow for Rockman, and heart-wrenching terror for herself and the others, but most especially for Netto. 'Hikari Netto, if you let yourself get hurt... I'm going to kill you for worrying me!'

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Netto groaned softly as he came back to consciousness.

"Wakey wakey, Netto-kun." A soft mocking voice laughed in his ear. A familiar, very unwelcome, voice.

Netto snapped fully into awareness and tried to spring to his feet. However, the ropes binding his ankles and wrists behind his back hampered his efforts and Netto fell to the ground with a grunt.

"So nice of you to join me Netto-kun." Yuriko smirked down at him as she leaned over him.

"Yuriko!" Netto growled at her. Quickly he looked around him but saw no sign of Meiru or the others. "What have you done to the others!"

"Now now, no need to be rude, Netto-kun. Your little friends will be just fine, so long as their daddies pay up. My 'associates' need to make a living too you know. Its such a difficult economy right now, so hard to get a decent job."

"Kisama! You won't get away with this, Yuriko! Rockman and I'll stop you!" Netto snarled as he struggled to a sitting position to face her.

"Oh ho ho ho hohahahaha! Rockman you say? Who is that? I don't see anyone here by that name. Hohoahahahahah!" Yuriko threw back her head and laughed.

"N-nani!" Netto squirmed around and tried to get a look at his hip-case. "Rockman? Rockman! Rock! Rockman! Teme! What have you done with Rockman!" Netto snarled as he spun around to face her.

Yuriko chuckled darkly. "I'd worry about yourself rather than him, ne, Netto-kun?" Yuriko laughed as she spun around and walked away, leaving Netto alone with his thoughts.

"Hey! Get back here! Where's Rockman! What have you done!" Netto shouted after her retreating back. Netto struggled to go after her but she was already gone by the time he scrambled around onto his knees to try to lurch after her. "Kuso!" Netto cried as he slumped forward to rest his forehead against the cold concrete floor. 'Rock... I should have listened to you. What did she do to you?' Netto shoved himself back to his knees and took a good look around him for the first time.

The room was large and was mainly empty space. Stacks of boxes and crates were littered here and there along with old shipping debris. The side of the building to Netto's right had two doorways that opened to dimly lit hallways. Yuriko had disappeared into the left-hand hallway. The left wall was made of sheet metal and only came down to ground level. A flooded ramp, sunken beneath the ground level, led out to the bay and the waters lapped against the concrete floor. To its left and right were steel doors with small windows that showed they led outside, both closed. Netto was bound on the concrete floor of the shipping warehouse, in front of the ramp. He briefly considered rolling down to the water and swimming for it, but with the way his legs were bound to the ropes around his wrists, there was no way he wouldn't drown in the water. He'd have to find a way to get out of the ropes binding him if he wanted to escape and get help for the others.

Netto looked around at what was close to him, but none of the old crates or debris close enough for him to get to would work for what he had in mind. 'Kuso, what am I going to do. I can't just give up!' Netto growled as he squirmed against the ropes binding his wrists together. They were too tight to wriggle out of. He'd have to find a way to cut them. 'If they were tied in front of me I could try gnawing my way out.' Netto scowled down at his knees as he shifted again. 'Wait! That's it! Gnawing!' Netto began squirming in earnest now, shifting his shoulders from side to side and rolling his shoulder blades as he worked to shrug his backpack off of his back. Finally he was able to shrug the straps off so that it dropped and settled against his ankles, the pack shifted slightly as it dropped down.

Netto shifted around until he was able to get a grip on the side zipper and worked to get it open. As the two halves of his pack fell apart, Netto shifted around to maneuver his bound wrists into the gap. "All right Nibbles-san, time to live up to your name. Meiru-chan and everyone are counting on us to get help, so you gotta chew like there's no tomorrow, ne." Netto whispered over his shoulder at the bag. As he felt fur brush against his hands and then felt the rope tug against his wrists Netto grinned. "Heh, good thing I brought you along so I could feed you today, ne, Nibbles-san?" A squeaking chirp and the feel of the ropes starting to loosen was his only answer.

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The now empty school bus stood against the side of one of the run down warehouses, covered in a black tarp to disguise its appearance. The security system that had been hastily erected in the compound had taken a matter of moments to disable and fool into viewing continuous loops of empty pavement. The near silent patter of booted feet was the only sound as the black clad, armored team spread out and surrounded the buildings on all accessible sides before moving in to gather outside the doorways in preparation to entering.

Enzan frowned as he watched the special swat team from the police department work in utter silence save the murmur of minimal radio contact from team leaders. He had been relegated to staying behind from the initial rush once Blues had 'adjusted' the security system of the factory and warehouse complex. He clenched his fist as his eyes strayed to the school bus sitting empty to the side of a warehouse.

"Enzan-sama." Blues murmured reassuringly. "It's too dangerous for you to be in the initial assault. The police are still uncertain on the number of criminals or their armaments."

"Aa." Enzan scowled as he watched the teams break down the doors and rush into the darkened interiors of the various buildings.

"Demo... Our only orders are not to accompany the initial teams. ...As a Net Savior it is part of our duties to aid our peers. ...It would not be against orders to 'follow' the assault teams, Enzan-sama."

"Hmm. Indeed. Let's go, Blues." Enzan slipped his PET back into his hip-holster and slipped out of the command van during a moment of organized chaos as one of the teams encountered several individuals and took them down. Once outside the van, it was a short dash to the gates and moments later he slipped in through the doorway of the building closest to the entrance to the compound.

Inside, Enzan could see that the teams assigned to this building had split up to take various passages off the main hallway that led to a dimly lit room at the end of the hall. Keeping to the walls, Enzan slipped down the hall to the doorway at the end and peered inside.

The room was filled with empty chairs all lined up more or less in rows, some were overturned, but most faced the podium at the far end of the room. Behind the podium was a blank projector screen hanging on the wall. There was no one in the room and aside from the disheveled state of the chairs; there was no sign anyone had been here. Enzan was just about to turn and search the other passages when a glint of blue and green just behind the podium caught his eye. He frowned slightly as he made his way across the room to get a better look at the object on the floor.

As Enzan came around the podium and got a first good look at the object, his breath caught in his throat as he hissed in shock.

"Enzan-sama?" Blues asked in concern.

"Rockman..." Enzan murmured, unable to mask the creeping fear from his voice as he knelt down beside Netto's ruined PET. The casing had split apart, spilling the mass of circuit boards out onto the cement floor. The display screen was dead and blank. 'Was there any chance Rockman's program could have survived the destruction of the PET?'

"Shimatta... Rockman..." Blues' murmur barely reached Enzan's ears, but even so he could hear the fear in his navi's voice.

Enzan carefully shifted the broken casing and examined the circuit boards that held the most important part of the PET. "Blues, the casing took most of the impact; but I'm not sure if his data survived intact."

"Will it be possible to recover any part of Rockman?" Blues asked quietly, leaning forward to intently study the remains of the PET.

"I don't know, but we'll try. I'm going to try to hardwire Netto's circuit boards to ours." Enzan said as he turned over his red PET and began working the casing off. "Once the connection is made, you'll have to enter his circuit boards and search for Rockman. If there's any of him left, bring him back with you to your PET's system. Netto's PET is beyond repair, he'll need a new one anyway." Enzan continued as he set the cover aside and picked up the green circuit boards from the floor. "You'll have to shut down the PET so I can rewire the circuits."

"Hai, Enzan-sama. I'm ready." Blues replied with a firm nod, an instant later the PET shut down as the screen went blank.

Enzan carefully eased out several of the non-vital memory circuit boards from his PET and set them aside. None of them held vitally irreplaceable data, only schedules and plans for various IPC projects and various PET system upgrades. Blues' data was in the main memory board, the one that he would be connecting Rockman's circuit boards onto. With the scattered state of the circuit boards, Enzan was unable to tell which was the main memory board, and the most likely place to find Rockman's data. It looked like Netto had been tinkering and adding circuitry to his PET, Enzan didn't recognize some of the circuit connections that were present in the mass of boards. He'd just have to try to wire them all together and hope Blues could sort it out.

A few minutes later, Enzan reactivated his PET and crossed his fingers. The screen blinked on and the PET systems rebooted. A moment later Blues coalesced on the screen as the PET tried to come to terms with the extra hardware that had been hastily spliced into its motherboard. "Find him, Blues. He knows what happened."

"Hai, Enzan-sama." With that, Blues vanished from the screen in a swirl of pixels. Enzan sighed and sat back to wait.

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Blues appeared on the green grid area of Netto's circuit boards and looked around to ascertain the level of damage the circuits had sustained. There was no immediate sign of Rockman. Blues frowned as he started for the nearest data directory and had to skirt an area of corrupted data grid that was sparking violently and threatening to collapse inward.

Upon arriving at the directory, he scowled and narrowed his eyes beneath his visor as he took in the state of the data stream. It was fraying and scattering randomly across the data port as the damage to the circuitry affected the flow of data between memory boards. Gritting his teeth he stepped forward into the static and hissed as the unfocussed data arced around him and a stray data stream, of apparently, math homework equations, slashed across his left arm and sliced through his suit and into his flesh beneath. Gritting his teeth he summoned his default weapon, his Blues Sword, and continued to the directory. Unwilling to damage the system further by slicing apart the dangerously erratic data streams, Blues used the flat of the blade to deflect the arcing lashes that whipped dangerously close to him as he accessed the directory and began the search protocols to find Rockman's data.

A few moments later and Blues scowled as he leapt away from the directory and headed for another board's data link. Rockman was not on this circuit board; he'd have to check the directory of each one to find him.

As he dashed across the grid towards the next data link, he leaped off of a data pylon and rebounded towards a cache table, but as he sprang back to the grid he had to abruptly throw himself to the left to avoid a massive discharge of static data that ripped through the area, taking the form of a massive lightning strike. The resulting explosion on the grid threw him sideways into another data pylon with a cry before sliding to the ground. Coughing through the smoke and fine debris that filled the air, Blues staggered back to his feet. An ominous creaking behind him was his only warning. Throwing himself to the left he rolled frantically and barely escaped the collapse of the grid beneath him as the pylon pitched forward crashing across the gaping hole in the grid board.

As Blues climbed back to his feet and surveyed the damage he scowled. 'Looks like this is going to be more difficult than I expected. Even in his own PET, Rockman seems to attract trouble.' Blues spun on his heel and resumed his dash towards the data link to the next circuit board. He'd have to hurry before things destabilized even worse.

Upon reaching the data link to the next circuit board, Blues found that the destabilization of the data was even more severe here. The link port was filled with erratic bursts of static and decompiling data lashed across the access link in whips of razor edged lightning. Blues darted forward, maneuvering in between the bursts of energy to the directory and accessed it. As he scrolled through the data lists he had to dodge backwards and hastily form the Blues Sword to deflect a thick whip of erratic email data that nearly slashed his throat wide open.

"Kuso." Blues growled as he leaped back out of range. He had seen enough from the link directory to know he needed to get onto this particular circuit board. Rockman was there. He'd have to take the corrupted data link to reach him though. There was no way he could avoid every discharge, not even with his speed. Blues scowled and then lunged forward into the data stream and raced for the next circuit grid as swiftly as he could.

Blues tumbled out of the data link, gasping in pain. Slashes across the arms and legs of his bodysuit bled data particles as he held a gash in his side. The data link port on this side was even more badly damaged than the entry port had been. An almost solid network of destabilizing data filled the near end of the data link and Blues had had to pass through it to reach this side of the circuit. He had to hurry or the return trip to his own main memory board would be even more dangerous.

Gritting his teeth against the pain, Blues climbed back to his feet, only to toss himself sideways almost immediately to avoid an arc of homework assignment data that lashed out across the space he had occupied. Turning his tumble into a roll, he sprang away to a safe distance from the data link before pausing to scan his surroundings. A moment later, Blues was bounding away towards a cluster of data pylons.

Blues leaped up to the top of the nearest data pylon and scanned the surrounding area in between the scattered pylons. Just as he was about to jump across the cluster of pylons and search the other side, a flash of dark blue caught his eye. Bounding to the sixth pylon over he found his target slumped on the grid against a pylon containing email data.

Blues leapt down to Rockman's side and crouched beside him before reaching out and shaking his shoulder slightly. "Rockman? Rockman, wake up." Receiving no response, Blues rolled Rockman over slightly to get a better look at his condition. There seemed to be no serious damage, although a series of scorch marks marred the dark blue of his bodysuit and a particularly large burn had eaten through his bodysuit and was slowly leaking data from his hip. A power surge during impact must have destabilized his consciousness matrix. Enzan would have to reboot his operating system once Blues had gotten Rockman safely to the stable main circuit board of Enzan's PET.

Blues shifted Rockman around and scooped the slightly shorter navi up into his arms. Cradling his limp form against his chest, Blues leapt to the top of the closest data pylon, turned toward the data link, and dashed off, bounding from pylon to pylon. In the distance he could see burnt grid segments and arcs of lightning sparking across data systems as the memory board continued its progress towards burning out. The data link was sure to be even more unstable if the circuit board itself was starting to burn out. Blues could only hope that it was still stable enough to transmit their data programs back to more stable circuits.

Blues didn't even slow down as he reached the directory and the data link. Though he had only been searching for less than five minutes; that was five more minutes he and Enzan remained in the dark about the fate of the students, and five more minutes for the damaged circuitry of Netto's PET to continue degrading until data recovery would be impossible. The sooner he got the two of them out of the damaged circuit boards, the better.

Gritting his teeth in anticipation, Blues plunged forward into the violently sparking data link and curled forward around Rockman's unconscious form as the data stream surged around them and hurled them across the degrading link. Decomposing data strands lashed across Blues' back and ripped down the side of his left leg, dragging a hoarse scream from his throat before tossing the two of them from the link. Blues twisted to take the brunt of the impact and rolled rapidly to his knees before dashing away from the degrading link to more stable grid. From here, it only took a moment and a fully functional data link to arrive back in the main memory board of Enzan's PET.

Even before Blues had a chance to set Rockman down, the view screen window sprang open to his left and Enzan's concerned blue eyes focused on the two. Blue eyes widened in shock as Enzan took in the slashed and bleeding condition of his navi and the scorched, unconscious form of Rockman. "Blues! Rockman!"

"Damage is minimal, Enzan-sama." Blues spoke reassuringly as he set Rockman gently down onto the grid. "Rockman's operating system will have to be rebooted. Demo, Netto's main memory board is beginning to burn out. It should be removed before it causes a chain reaction in our PET's circuitry."

Enzan hissed in a breath at that thought. A chain reaction burnout would irreparably destroy all the linked circuit boards, including any data, programs, or navis currently in said circuits. "Aa. I'm shutting the PET down now. I'll reboot as soon as I've removed the extra circuit boards."

"Hai, Enzan-sama." Blues replied. As the view screen shut down, Blues sank to the ground in a sitting position beside Rockman and placed his systems into dormant mode for the grid shutdown. To an outside observer it would seem he had simply fallen asleep while sitting up.

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Enzan worked quickly to remove Netto's damaged circuit boards and replace his own back into his PET. For Blues to have received so much damage, superficial or not, entering the damaged circuitry must have been far more dangerous than he had anticipated. Even if Rockman was now safe, the question of the fate of Netto, Yaito, Meiru, Tohru, Dekao and the rest of the students remained. He had received no confirmation of freed hostages through the radio clipped to his ear lobe from the police forces, although seven illegally armed men had been incapacitated and taken into custody.

Enzan snapped the back cover of his PET into place and booted the system back up. The reboot should also reboot any navi programs in the system, so Rockman should wake up as well. Though both navi's could probably benefit from Enzan's repair programs, that would have to wait until after Rockman told them what had happened.

The screen lit up and the PET ran through the initialization procedures before the view shifted to the navi programs' location. Blues was crouched over Rockman and gently shaking his shoulder to bring him around.

Rockman shifted with a pained moan and blinked his eyes open. For a moment he simply stared up at Blues' visored face in incomprehension. "Blues? Wha-?" Rockman cut himself off as he abruptly lunged up to a sitting position and cried out, "Netto-kun!"

"Rockman!" Enzan's demanding tone cut through his panic.

Rockman whipped his head around to face Enzan's view screen. "Enzan!" He gasped. "Netto-kun-!" he began before Enzan cut him off.

"Rockman, what happened?"

"Netto-kun..." Rockman visibly dragged himself from his panic to answer the question. "Mariko-sensei wasn't Mariko-sensei. It was Yuriko! Everyone was drugged with some sort of gas and passed out. Then Yuriko revealed herself and threatened that she would be taking Netto-kun! She threw my PET across the room... Demo... Netto's PET broke, how am I here?"

"Enzan-sama linked the damaged circuit boards from Netto's PET into ours and sent me to find you." Blues replied from his crouched position beside Rockman.

"But, damaged circuitry is dangerous! If the circuits had been fried it could have caused a chain reaction in your PET!" Rockman gasped as he looked from Enzan to Blues.

"We needed information on what happened. The risk was acceptable for the result." Blues replied matter-of-fact-ly as he stood up and winced slightly as the motion pulled at the bleeding gash down his leg.

"Blues! You're hurt!" Rockman cried as he sprang to his feet, ignoring his own injuries as he moved to help the taller navi.

Blues waved him off. "The damage is superficial and easily repaired. The location of Netto and the other students is more important."

"They haven't been found! But, I thought..." Rockman turned desperate eyes to Enzan.

"The police are searching the entire complex. Seven of the suspects have been taken into custody, but the hostages have not yet been located." Enzan replied with a frown. "We should continue searching." Enzan stood up to leave the room when a glint of light reflecting off of broken circuits caught his eye. He frowned as he glanced around the room. There was no direct lighting that could have caused the gleam from the circuit board's position in the shadow of the podium. Enzan dropped back to his knees and shifted around trying to pinpoint an angle the light could be coming from.

"Enzan-sama?" Blues questioned as he watched his operator crawl across the floor, belly down, his cheek pressing against the cement.

As Enzan turned around to face the wall behind the podium, he hissed in his breath in satisfaction. "There."

"Enzan?" Rockman blinked out at the youth as Enzan stood up and advanced on the projection screen.

"Blues, send an alert to the police teams. There's a doorway hidden behind this screen."

"Hai, Enzan-sama." Blues replied as Enzan carefully slid the screen away from the wall and ducked underneath it into a hallway lit with bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The one closest to the back of the screen was one of the only ones not flickering dimly as they stretched down the hallway, past several metal doors, before ending as the hallway opened out into a larger, better lit space.

Enzan slipped down the hallway, skirting several boxes of uncertain origin and keeping to the shadowed walls as he came up to the first door. Just as he reached for the handle, the door swung open inward and a tall man, nearly twice Enzan's height stepped out of a small room that might have once been an office. He was wearing black pants and a charcoal gray long-sleeved shirt and black gloves. A ski mask was tucked into his belt beside the handgun holstered at his hip. For a heartbeat they both stared at each other. Then the man reached for the gun at his hip and Enzan reacted.

Enzan lunged forward. Knocking the man's hand up and away from the gun with his left forearm, Enzan swung up into his gut with his right fist. The man doubled over with a gasp and suddenly straightened, backhanding Enzan across the face with a snarl. Enzan was thrown six feet back down the hallway and crashed into a stack of half rotted crates that shattered under his weight, scattering rusted metal pipes across the hallway.

"Enzan-sama!"

"Enzan!"

Two voices cried out in unison from the PET at his hip as Enzan struggled to get to his feet before the man reached him. The man loomed over Enzan as he managed to pull himself into a crouch. Enzan froze as he saw the gun aimed at his head.

"Brat." The man spat. "You should know better than to strike your elders." Then the man's eyes narrowed and a sick smile creased his lips. "I know you. You're that kid from the IPC Advanced PET commercials." His voice changed to a sickly sweet mocking tone as he mimicked, "Plug-in your Heart." His voice slipped back into a growl. "What a load of crap. Doesn't matter though. Your dad's the IPC President, must be my lucky day, ne, kid?" He grinned maliciously down at Enzan. "Now be a good boy and get up, wouldn't want to have to damage the goods before I get the money."

Enzan narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists so tightly his knuckles whitened. As he began to slowly straighten up, his palm brushed against one of the pipes. 'It's no R-Blues Sword, but it'll do.' Shifting his weight slightly, Enzan slid his hand down the pipe and placed it over the end to brace himself as he stood.

The man shifted his gun impatiently. "Hurry it up kid, I know you ain't hurt." He snarled and jerked his gun imperatively in a 'come on' motion at Enzan.

In the split second the barrel began its motion to point away from Enzan and before it started back onto its target, Enzan acted. Lunging forward, low to the ground, he clenched the pipe in his right hand and swung upwards, throwing his weight behind the attack as his feet left the ground. The pipe slammed into the man's hand, the wet crunch of shattering bone accompanied the sound of a gunshot as he reflexively pulled the trigger and the gun went flying into the air.

The shot harmlessly pierced the screen at the end of the hall. At the height of Enzan's jump, he twisted in mid-air and used the momentum to whip the pipe around in a horizontal arc to slam into the side of the man's head as he bent forward to cradle his ruined hand. The man slumped to the ground soundlessly, unconscious before he hit the floor, as the force of the blow sent Enzan crashing into the right-hand wall of the hallway.

"Enzan-sama!" Blues cried out as Enzan slumped to the floor.

"Enzan! Are you all right? Answer us!" Rockman cried out in panic as the view from the PET screen whirled and shifted erratically before stabilizing at a view of the wall, or maybe the floor, Rockman doubted it was the ceiling, it was too close.

For a moment there was no reply. Then with a soft groan, the view shifted again as Enzan climbed back to his feet. Enzan hissed in pain as he limped over to the unconscious form of the man, the pipe clenched in his hand. Enzan nudged him with his foot and heard a distinct clinking sound from his hip pocket. Dropping to a crouch, Enzan fished a key ring out of the man's pocket. 'It's likely the man was a guard of some kind if he had keys, which meant the hostages were nearby.'

Enzan stood up and headed down the hallway towards the open-air end. However, about halfway down the hall, he stopped as a sound reached his ears. Coming from the metal door to his right, he could just barely make out the sound of frightened sobbing. Enzan pulled out the keys and began trying to fit them into the lock. Glancing back down the hall to the screen, he had to wonder where the hell the police teams were.

The second key unlocked the door and Enzan pushed it open cautiously, pipe held at the ready, braced for the possibility of another kidnapper waiting inside. Inside, illuminated by dim, flickering lights, were the missing students. They were all bound hand and foot and gagged. Some were still unconscious, but others were awake and obviously frightened from the situation. The recent gunshot probably didn't help either. As he pushed the door open the rest of the way and stepped inside, a familiar red head lifted off the ground near the doorway to stare wide-eyed at him.

"Mphmmn!" Meiru cried out in surprise at seeing Enzan's distinctive black and white haired head walk through the doorway.

Enzan stepped over to her and dropped into a crouch, setting down the pipe, he pulled off her gag. He pulled out his pocketknife and began sawing at the ropes around her wrists. "Are you all right?" He asked as he glanced around, counting heads and searching for familiar faces.

"Yes, we all are." Gasped Meiru as her wrists were released and Enzan began hacking at the ankle ropes. "But Netto! Enzan, Roll-chan says that Yuriko woman took Netto and smashed his PET! Rockman is... Rockman..." She began crying soundlessly as her sentence dissolved into tears and sniffles. Another set of sobs, much quieter but less restrained echoed from the holster at her hip.

"Daijoubu, Meiru, Roll-chan. I'm all right. It's okay." Rockman hurriedly reassured them from Enzan's PET as he leaned forward into the view screen window.

Meiru gasped at his voice and stared at Enzan's PET in shock for a second before gasping in delight, "Rockman! You're okay!"

"Rockman!" Sobbed Roll as she clambered up to her feet and pulled herself as close to her view screen as she could, craning her head to try to see Rockman through Enzan's PET window. "Oh Rockman! You're all right! I thought... I thought..."

"It's okay Roll-chan. I'm all right. Blues and Enzan saved me." Rockman smiled brightly up at Blues who was very busy examining an otherwise ordinary data file on N-1 Grand Prix win-loss statistics and trying mightily to ignore Rockman's gratitude and happiness at such a sign of friendship.

"Honto?" Roll gasped in delight as she turned her attention to Blues and Enzan who had started carefully untying the still unconscious Yaito. "Blues, Enzan-"

"Where did she take Netto?" Enzan cut her thanks off before he'd managed to work up more than a slightly pink tinge to his cheeks at the girls' praise.

"She said to leave him by the ramp." Roll spoke up. "But I don't know where that is, he wasn't brought in here with everyone else."

Enzan nodded, then handed his pocketknife to Meiru. "Help the others, the police teams should be here any minute. I'm going to find Netto." He was up and out the door before she could reply.

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Netto growled under his breath as he tested the ropes again. Looser, but still not enough for him to slip out of the tightly wound coils. He could feel the fraying edges of the rope where Nibbles-san had been gnawing away at it, but the brave little hamster hadn't yet been able to chew through the rope. Squirming around to get his wrists back into the knapsack so Nibbles-san could continue, Netto shifted his position again and eyed the passageway he knew Yuriko had gone down.

"Hurry, Nibbles-san. She could come back any minute." Netto encouraged as he felt Nibbles-san start tugging at the rope with his teeth again. "We've got to get out of here and find Rockman and get help." Netto gritted his teeth as he glared at the darkened hallway leading off the room. 'Rockman... Hang in there... I'm not going to lose you.'

Netto was just about to test the ropes again when a gunshot rang out from the right-hand hallway. Netto jerked in shock and spun to face the hallway, trying to peer into it despite the poor angle he was at. Even before the echoes from the gunshot had faded, Yuriko hurried out from the left-hand hallway, a handgun glinted darkly in her hand as she stalked up to Netto.

"Get up." She hissed as she reached down and grabbed him by the collar, dragging him upright, despite the awkward position of his legs, pulled back behind his center of gravity, preventing him from standing straight or walking unaided. As she jerked him upright, the knapsack on his back sagged open and Nibbles-san tumbled out along with Netto's lunch sack and a crumpled up sweater. Yuriko never noticed as she dragged Netto along behind her, heading for the door on the right side of the sea ramp.

"Oi! Let me go!" Netto snarled as he was dragged across the cement floor behind her, renewing his efforts to break the ropes or to get enough slack to wriggle his hands out of the loops.

"Shut up!" Yuriko snapped back. "We'll see how great a Net Savior you are without your navi." She hissed maliciously at him as she jerked him across the floor after her. "You both are nothing when on your own." She chuckled as she ignored his struggles.

Yuriko dropped Netto and tucked the gun into a holster at her hip before shoving the door open. Then she grabbed his collar and dragged him through it. The sudden flood of bright daylight forced Netto to squint and blink rapidly until his eyes adjusted. On this side of the wall, a narrow walkway ran along the wall, and stretching out from each of the doors out over the water were two twin piers. Both were piled haphazardly with old crates and rusted drum barrels, tied down with tarps, nets, or chains.

Netto stumbled as his legs dragged across the wooden pier as Yuriko dragged him out onto the right-hand pier. Ignoring his yelps as his legs scraped against the weather worn wood and banged into the crates and barrels as she dragged him past them towards the end of the pier.

"Let me go!" Netto shouted, struggling to free his hands and throwing his weight against her, trying to make her stumble. "Let me go you old hag!" He snarled and lunged to the left, forcing Yuriko to stagger off balance and let him go. He rolled to the edge of the pier's side.

"Old hag!" She shrieked as she rounded on him. Lifting him up by his collar at the edge of the pier, she dragged him close to her. "I was planning on making this quick. But for that, I'll make sure you suffer." She snarled into his face, her shades hiding her furious gaze from view. Yuriko dropped him to the pier before stalking off, and out of sight, behind a pile of crates that nearly took up the entire end of the pier. As Netto furiously thrashed his arms back and forth, trying to break the ropes he was brought up short by a loud clank from behind the crates. A moment later Yuriko reappeared, dragging a large, cylindrical, black, metal weight behind her by the rope threaded through the hole in the center. It rolled unsteadily along as she dragged at the rope until it reached Netto and she stopped it by dropping her foot onto it.

Yuriko dropped to a crouch beside him and grabbed a hold of his bound ankles with her free hand. Netto's eyes widened in horrified realization as she rapidly tied the loose end of the weighted rope around the ropes, threading it between his ankles. "Let's see how well you swim, ne, Ne-t-to – ku-n." Yuriko smiled fiendishly at him, dragging his name out as she tapped her fingernail on the tip of his nose before standing up and dragging him after her.

"Iie!" Netto gasped and struggled desperately in her grasp as she lifted him out towards the water. "You can't do this! Let me go!" he shouted.

"Don't be silly." Yuriko smiled pleasantly at him. "Of course I can. Just think of it as returning the favor for Regal-sama." She purred at him as she held him out over the water and leaned close to his face.

Just as her grip began to ease on his shirtfront, a shout rang out over the water. "Netto!" Enzan shouted from the head of the pier beside the still open door into the warehouse factory.

Yuriko and Netto both whipped their heads around to face the shout. "Enzan!" Netto gasped in relief at the sight of his fellow Net Savior.

"Netto-kun!" A familiar voice cried out from the PET at Enzan's hip.

"Rockman!" Netto cried in relief as a tension he hadn't realized had been building in him, left in a rush at the sound of that voice.

"You!" Hissed Yuriko at the sight of Enzan.

"Give up Yuriko!" Enzan called across to her as he started forward onto the pier. "This entire complex is crawling with police teams. There's no way you can escape!" Enzan scowled at her as he advanced steadily toward the two.

His steady and collected voice gave no indication at the mixed relief and worry finding Netto had stirred up. He was relieved that Netto was still here and seemingly unharmed. There had been the constant worry gnawing at the back of his mind since talking to Rockman that Netto had already been taken to another location. However, Enzan was unarmed, and the police would probably not get to this pier for another few minutes at best. Netto was helpless against Yuriko at the moment and she could still hurt him, especially if she was armed. Enzan could only pray to whatever benevolent kami that were listening that she would not call his bluff.

The kami didn't seem to be listening today.

Yuriko began laughing. "Now now, Enzan-chan. It's not nice to tell lies. Perhaps I should punish you, ne?" She asked as she released Netto with her right hand and pulled the gun out of its holster and aimed languidly down the pier towards Enzan.

Enzan hissed and froze. He was too far away from any of the stacks of crates to duck behind them, and the barrels might be full of explosively flammable materials, he couldn't tell from the faded, barely visible labels. There was no other readily available cover that might protect him from a gunshot. Over the sudden thundering of his heartbeat in his ears he could just make out a horrified gasp from Rockman inside his PET and the inhaled hiss of breath from Blues.

Netto strained his shoulders and arms against the knots on his wrists. He could feel the strands of the frayed rope giving. Just a bit more, a little farther...

"Enzan! Run!" Netto cried as he struggled against the ropes and forced Yuriko off balance by throwing his weight to the left. Enzan began to pivot to sprint for the dubious cover of the doorway, when a pained yelp from Netto froze him in his tracks, jerking his attention back to Netto and Yuriko.

"Teme!" Yuriko snarled as she backhanded Netto with the barrel of her gun and tightened her grip on his collar. Then she grinned viciously at him. "Demo... I think I'll take care of you first, Netto-kun." She flashed a predatory grin at Enzan as she leveled the gun at Netto's heart. "Ne, En-za-n - cha-n, what'll you do?" She flashed a smile at Enzan as she held the gun steady on Netto. Netto struggled desperately, feeling the rope give just a little more as he strained against the cords.

Enzan's hand clenched reflexively around his chip holster, his knuckles whitened as panic rooted him to the spot. There was no Dimensional Area, not even the Battle Chip Gate program installed in his PET would make a difference. There was no Battle Chip that could pull a miraculous last minute rescue out of the air for Netto. Even though his mind told him this, his body and instincts refused to believe it as his fingers tightened around a single chip.

Yuriko leaned close to Netto and whispered to him. "Will he try to save you? Or catch me? Hmmm, Netto-kun?" she grinned as she pushed him away to arms' length. "What do you think Enzan-chan!?" she laughed.

"No!" Enzan cried in horror as she tightened her grip on the gun and pulled back on the trigger smiling happily at Netto in twisted delight. Reflex took over before Enzan's mind had time to register what was happening as he whipped his arm around and snapped his wrist as though sliding a battle chip home into his PET. Except this time, the snap release sent the chip flying across the distance between the three.(3)

Netto's eyes widened in shock as the single chip sliced across Yuriko's hand just as her finger pulled the trigger tight to the handle.

The gunshot rang out across the pier as Netto's body jerked backwards. His mouth opened in a silent scream as his brown eyes widened in shock and pain. A spray of bright red arced through the air behind him as Yuriko dropped him and Netto collapsed in a boneless heap on the pier.

Enzan hadn't even realized he was screaming in denial until he was forced to stop to breath in. Another voice continued to scream.

"NETTO-KUUUN!!"

Yuriko laughed as she stepped back and placed her foot on the weight once more. "What will you do Enzan-chan?" She cried as she kicked the weight. It rolled to the edge of the pier and dropped over the side with a splash. The rope jerked tight and Netto was abruptly whipped over the edge and hit the water with an even bigger splash.

Enzan was moving even before the water had closed over Netto's head. Lunging forward, he sprinted for Yuriko. She whirled around in a swirl of black cloth and darted behind the final stack of crates on the end of the pier. By the time Enzan reached the place Netto had been thrown in, the orange of his vest had already been swallowed up by the blue green of the sea. Unsnapping his PET and chip holster from his belt, he dropped them to the ground. The rumble of an engine reached Enzan's ears from the end of the pier but he paid it no heed as he dove off the edge of the pier and let the cold water close over his head.

Yuriko's laughter filtered through the air before a black and purple motorboat roared away from the pier and headed for open sea. However, up ahead, Yuriko could see police boats were closing in on the pier and would intercept her. She chuckled darkly and adjusted her sunglasses as she flipped open a panel to the right of her seat and pulled the lever hidden within. With a roaring rumble, the speedboat shifted and seemed to split apart before reforming into a new shape. With the turbine howl of a jet engine, Yuriko's new escape craft shot ahead as wings unfolded from either side and a canopy closed over her head. The black and purple mini-jet roared away into the sky, leaving the police boat officers to stare dumbfounded after it.(4)

"No...no...no...." Rockman whispered, shaking his head in denial, eyes wide in horror, his face had gone white, drained of color. Blues stood behind him, frozen in shock, his mouth open and what was visible of his face a pale shade of gray.

"NOOO!! NETTO-KUN!!" Rockman's legs gave out beneath him and he collapsed to the grid floor. His eyes shut tightly; tears began running down his face as he seemed to collapse in on himself, shaking uncontrollably. Shivering in helpless denial and horrified grief as he wrapped his arms tightly around his waist, powerless to do anything to prevent or change the nightmare that had taken place on the pier.

Blues stepped forward and knelt beside the smaller navi. He hesitated for an instant before reaching out tentatively and placed his right hand on Rockman's right shoulder. Rockman shivered under his touch for an instant before shuddering violently and spun on his knees, throwing himself against Blues' chest, gripping his upper arms desperately as he sobbed, his face buried against Blues' right shoulder.

Blues froze, uncertain how to react to this, before tentatively sliding his right arm around Rockman's shoulders. He winced slightly as Rockman gripped his arms tighter and wished he could do something more to comfort his friend. Blues narrowed his eyes behind his visor as Rockman's sobs dissolved into broken wails for Netto. 'Preferably something involving the Blues Sword and Yuriko, or maybe a Zeta Cannon...'

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The cold water closed over Enzan's head as he plunged in after Netto. Despite being so close to shore, the water had to be at least 25 feet deep here, Enzan realized as he kicked out and scissored his arms to head deeper. Down below him, he could just make out an indistinct hazy blur of orange. 'Thank kami-sama for that loud vest, I'd have never found him otherwise in this murky water.' Enzan dove deeper; his lungs just beginning to protest the lack of fresh air.

Up ahead, the indistinct figure became clearer. Enzan could now see Netto suspended motionless in the water about a foot above the weight that was sunk halfway into the silty bottom. A hazy streamer of red wavered above him, suspended in the water as a bright ribbon against the dark muddy green of the water.

Enzan reached Netto and reached out to catch a hold of his vest to anchor him from floating back upwards. The water stirred and silt billowed up around them in clouds as Enzan swung himself around to steady his position underwater. Netto's disheveled brown hair floated in the current, obscuring his eyes, his bandanna having loosened and released it.

Enzan twisted himself around and crawled down Netto's body to reach his ankles where the weighted rope tied him down. He reached for his pocketknife only to curse himself for having left it with Meiru. Shifting his grip to the anchoring rope as his lungs protested and began to ache, Enzan began to pick at the knot holding Netto down to the weight.

Just as he was about to make a run to the surface for more air, Enzan managed to slip his finger under the loop of the knot. Throwing his weight backwards, Enzan pulled the loop as hard as he could. For an instant it protested before giving way as the loose end of the knot slipped free and the entire knot unraveled. Netto drifted free of the weight, slowly tipping forward as he started floating, his back to the surface.

Enzan twisted and kicked off the bottom, snagging Netto's elbow as he shot past and kicked for the surface as hard as he could, his lungs burning for air.

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Rockman's sobs had dissolved into soundless gasping shudders as he clung to Blues as though to the last bit of solid ground in a madly collapsing universe. Blues let him cling. Unable to provide any other form of comfort, Blues rested his arm across Rockman's shoulders and gripped his right shoulder under his hand. His gaze remained locked on the view screen of the PET where it hovered behind Rockman, showing a view of the water Enzan had disappeared beneath after Netto.

Blues tensed as the water churned abruptly and Enzan's head broke the surface, his mouth open and gasping for air as water streamed off of his white and black hair. Enzan twisted in the water, placing his back to the pier and rolled backwards onto his back, heaving with his arms as Netto's head broke the surface. As his head lolled limply back against Enzan's chest, Blues could see his brown hair was plastered to his face; the blue bandanna had loosened and dropped around his neck like a scarf.

Enzan kicked out, dragging Netto's unresponsive form behind him until the pier's edge came into his line of sight. Sliding his left arm around Netto's chest, Enzan rolled forward and twisted to face the pier, reaching up with his free hand to grab the edge of the pier. Heaving and kicking his legs for added momentum, Enzan twisted out from under Netto and lurched out of the water to hook his leg over the edge of the pier and roll forward. Still holding Netto by his left arm, Enzan braced himself against the pier edge and dragged Netto's limp form up and over the edge. Falling back as Netto's limp weight fell against his chest, Enzan rolled out from under him and shifted Netto onto his back.

Frantically, Enzan scrabbled at Netto's vest and white shirt until he was able to catch a hold of the zipper and peel the orange layer back. Enzan's heart hammered in his ears as he frantically tried to figure out where Netto had been shot. Frustrated with trying to get the sopping and clinging shirt pulled out so he could pull it off, Enzan just grabbed it at either side of the sticky red hole near the upper left-side of Netto's chest and tore the shirt open to expose the wound.

Enzan's shoulders slumped as he almost sobbed.

Relief flooded him at the sight of the raw red wound that traced an angry red slash across the flesh over Netto's left shoulder. The bullet had almost completely missed Netto when Yuriko had reflexively flinched from the pain of Enzan's Battle Chip slicing across her hand. Then Enzan realized Netto was not breathing and the panic flooded back.

"Oi! Netto! Hang in there! Damnit! You are not going to die from this!" Enzan growled as he gripped Netto's uninjured shoulder and shook him slightly. Enzan gritted his teeth as he wracked his brain for everything he could remember about CPR.

Tipping Netto's head back so his mouth fell open, Enzan traced down his breastbone to the base where he pressed the heel of his hand against the bone and laced his fingers together. Straightening up and leaning over Netto, Enzan pressed down with his weight and started compressing Netto's ribcage in rhythmic pumps. After five compressions he leaned forward and tipped Netto's head back again to try mouth-to-mouth.

An instant before he clamped his lips over Netto's, Netto bucked under his hand as his back arched with a jerk. Enzan jerked back as Netto jerked again and explosively coughed out water as his lungs contracted and struggled for air. Enzan gripped Netto's left shoulder and hip and rolled him over as he retched out a lungful of water, coughing and gasping as his frame shuddered under Enzan's hands.

Blues gripped Rockman's shoulders tightly and shook him slightly to catch his attention. "Rockman. Rockman...look, Rockman." He urged his sobbing friend.

As Netto's gasps steadied, Enzan rolled him back over. "Netto... Netto are you okay?" Enzan asked as he moved to ease Netto into a sitting position.

"E-Enzan?" Netto wheezed as he blinked up at Enzan through the damp spikes of his hair that flopped into his eyes.

At the sound of Netto's voice, Rockman froze and slowly shifted around to look over his shoulder at the view screen as Blues dropped his arm from his shoulders. "N-n-ne-Netto-k-kun?" He stammered as his red-rimmed green eyes widened in disbelief and then his whole face lit up in relief and joy at the sight of his sopping wet best friend and net-op being propped up by an equally sopping Enzan. "Netto-kun!" He sobbed joyfully as he scrambled and stumbled to the view screen, gripping its edges to lean forward and get as close to his net-op as he could without a Dimensional Area. "You're alive! Yogatta... yogatta." He sobbed as he stretched out his hand along the screen to press it against Netto's image.

"Rockman..." Netto turned to face Enzan's PET where it lay on the ground where it had fallen, propped up by the chip pack holster underneath it. Netto coughed slightly but smiled widely in relief at the sight of his best friend leaning up against the screen, his gloved hand pressed against the window as though reaching out to Netto.

Blues stood up and came up behind Rockman. "Enzan-sama, Netto, daijoubu?" Blues asked as he leaned around Rockman to get a clear view of the two boys.

"Aa, Blues." Enzan replied with a small smile of relief.

"Hai." grinned Netto, before coughing and wincing as his shoulder throbbed. Suddenly he tensed and spun to face Enzan. "Enzan! Meiru-" he began before Enzan cut him off.

"It's okay Netto. Meiru, Yaito, Tohru, Dekao and the others are safe. The police teams should have reached them and taken custody of the last of the thugs Yuriko was working with by now." Enzan reassured him as he stood up, water dripping from the ends of his black hair and his red vest.

Netto sighed in relief. "Yogatta." He grinned as he gingerly held his left shoulder to slow the bleeding and struggled to get to his feet. "Demo, Yuriko..." Netto scowled at the thought of that villain.

Enzan frowned and looked out towards the sea where she had escaped. "Yuriko escaped... This time." Enzan turned back and reached down and caught Netto's right elbow before pulling him up. "Come on. You need to see a doctor about that shoulder." He led him over to his PET and bent down to scoop it and his chip pack up before straightening and tugging Netto along back towards the warehouse door.

"Ne, Enzan..." Netto began as they neared the end of the pier.

"Hmm?" Enzan replied as he turned to face the younger boy, only to stiffen in shock as Netto's arms snaked around his waist.

"Arigatou, Enzan." Netto grinned up at him through his soggy brown bangs.

"A-aa." Enzan shifted uncomfortably before shrugging the hug away with a glare that held no sting to try to hide his embarrassed flush.

As they started towards the doorway again, Netto grinned impishly. "Ne, Enzan... Does this make you 'my hero'?"

Enzan froze in shock for a second and nearly lost his balance as Netto kept walking forward. Netto turned around and grinned at Enzan's expression before starting to laugh.

Enzan sighed before straitening up and walking forward past the still laughing Netto. As he walked past he smacked Netto lightly upside the back of his head. "Baka."

"Itai!" Netto yelped and bent forward, clapping his hands to his head as Enzan continued toward the door without him. "Oi! Oi! Wait up Enzan!" he cried as he straightened up and hurried to catch up.

Enzan allowed himself a small smile as he walked up to the doorway. Just the same as always... Netto never changed. As irritating as that was, it was just the way he liked it.

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Owari

(The End)

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(1) Nibbles-san – A.K.A. Mr. Nibbles [But in Japanese. ;P]

(2) Yuriko does costume changes like this in the anime.

(3) If Shadowman can use Dark Chips, and Seto Kaiba can use Blue Eyes White Dragon playing cards as deadly accurate shurikens, then so can Enzan...only using Battle Chips instead. He doesn't have any Duel Monster's Cards.

(4) If Yuuichirou has a van that transforms into a helicopter, Regal has a space station that can turn invisible, and Yaito-chan has a house that transforms into a giant robot... Then by kami-sama, Yuriko gets a speedboat that transforms into a mini-jet!!

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